LETTER OF THE DAY - Don't fuel AIDS myths

Published: Friday | February 28, 2014 Comments 0

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The article 'Wisynco hits back at 'malicious hoax' published on January 31, 2014, stated: "Messages have surfaced on platforms such as BlackBerry messenger and WhatsApp that a worker who is infected with AIDS has contaminated the company's products with the deadly disease."

The article went on to say that Wisynco dismissed the rumours that "an HIV-positive employee injected their blood into the product during plant production and warned consumers to avoid buying the company's line of products".

While it is understandable that the newspaper should publicise what is happening in society, the media also have a responsibility to inform and educate the public. As such, the statements from the social-media posts should have been qualified with correct information to further rubbish the allegations. However, the article was very successful in propelling myths and misinformation on what is HIV and AIDS.

First, one cannot be infected with AIDS - the disease caused by HIV. The virus fights the immune system (white blood cells), making people much more vulnerable to infections and diseases. This susceptibility worsens as the viral load increases. HIV is found in the bodily fluids (semen, vaginal fluids, blood, and breast milk) of an infected person.

People with HIV have what is called an HIV infection and can develop AIDS. The development of numerous opportunistic infections in an AIDS patient can ultimately lead to death. Death is, therefore, caused by an AIDS-related illness and not AIDS itself.

HIV is passed from one person to another through blood transfusion, use/sharing of contaminated needles, and sexual contact such as vaginal sex, anal sex, and oral sex. In addition, HIV-positive women can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy, childbirth, and through breastfeeding.

NO TRANSMISSION BY DIGESTION

HIV does not stay alive outside of the human body and cannot be contracted via digestion. The virus needs a direct opening to the bloodstream to enter the body. Therefore, an injection of blood into a production plant WILL NOT transmit HIV to the person who consumes a bottle of water or any other drink or food for that matter.

Jamaica AIDS Support for Life is concerned that, after at least 25 years of the HIV epidemic in Jamaica, HIV basic knowledge is this poor. We feel it necessary to respond to this issue as during Safer Sex Week (February 9-15), sessions with youth demonstrated a belief in this garbage.

This is unacceptable. At this stage, we should be equipping our nation with the correct information so that people can make informed decisions rather than live by myths and propaganda. This type of journalism only fuels increased stigma towards the disease and discrimination against people living with HIV.

JAMAICA AIDS SUPPORT FOR LIFE

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